When Tea Party member Jim Lewis ran for a seat on the West Clermont School Board last year he vowed to “to slay the dragon that is public education in West Clermont” and promised to fight against teachers unions.
This past week Board Member Lewis, along with Board President Tina Sanborn and Vice President Mark Merchant, introduced a motion to hire anti-union law firm Frost Brown and Todd. Sandorn, like Lewis, is a member of the Clermont Tea Party. Merchant was endorsed by the Tea Party during his run in November.
The motion came as a surprise to board members Steve Waldmann and Tammy Brinkman.
When asked by Brinkman why the motion was being introduced, Merchant stumbled, claiming, among other things, that it was “for the purpose of increasing the ability to stimulate cost reduction.” Additional questions revealed that the letter of intent with the law firm would require the school system to pay $7,000 per month for legal services. Though they claimed the contract would save money, none of the Tea Party board members seemed to know how much money was spent in previous years on legal services.
According to Brinkman, open meeting laws may have been broken when Lewis, Sanborn and Merchant met in private to discuss the contract. Merchant also appears to have directed a school employee to review the contract, something only the full board is allowed to do.
During his run for school board, Lewis claimed he wanted to model West Clermont schools on Springboro, where Tea Party activist Kelly Kohls, then Springboro School Board President, battled teachers and tried to push Creationism and Christian Nationalism into the curriculum of her public schools. If this is, in fact, Lewis’s plan, then a law firm familiar with union busting would definitely come in handy.
A video clip from the February 10th, 2013 board meeting is included below. School Board Members in the video, from left to right, are Jim Lewis, Tina Sanborn, Mark Merchant, Steve Waldmann and Tammy Brinkman. Not shown in the video, off to the far left, are West Clermont Treasurer Alana Cropper and West Clermont Superintendent Dr. Keith Kline.